Conversations #8 - Mike Elias


A conversation with the founder of Idea Markets, Mike Elias—

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Hey Eclectic Spacewalk subscribers!

After traveling to Europe in October & November to film some projects and record a few podcasts (Ronni Abergel, Vinay Gupta, George Por, & Yogos Krassakopoulos), I am back in LA for the foreseeable future.

Last month, I sat down with Mike Elias of Idea Markets. The subject matter we discussed hits close to home with my journalism background, and should be deeply important for anyone who values democratic values & access to information. Sadly, this is not a new story, but a very old one.

Mike & Idea Markets are trying to help solve the problem of trust, credibility, and narrative rigor that is objectively missing in media today. As well as, countering the incalculable harm of the “Tobacco Strategy” that still plagues our societal discourse anywhere narratives take root in the public’s psyche.

What is an idea market?

“Idea markets use investment to establish credibility for ideas and narratives without trusting a centralized third party by changing the incentive landscape for creating common knowledge. Success is achieved not when lies disappear forever, but when the trend reverses from a competition to exploit, terrorize, and divide the public to a competition to serve, inspire, and unite it.”

If you have been paying attention to this year’s US President election cycle, then you are without a doubt being *somewhat* influenced by the billion dollar misinformation business. Not telling the truth is apparently insanely profitable, as well as manufacturing happy go lucky stories that are in reality - horror stories. Hedge funds are buying up newspapers all over the country, and that isn’t good for you or I. All this in the name of corporations creating fiat narratives that fit their worldviews. “No amount of public outcry or reasoned dissent can change fiat narratives if doing so would threaten the power of their issuers,” says Idea Markets.

The head of CBS, Les Moonves, famously said the quite part out loud in the lead up to the 2016 election, "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS…The money's rolling in and this is fun…I've never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It's a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”

By all accounts it looks like we have not learned the lessons we needed to from 2016, and are moving towards repeating them in 2020 if we don’t evade scandal, outrage, and false equivalency with some much needed finesse. We are letting billionaires upend democracy with ad buys that exceed any normal, rationale amount that a civil servant citizen running for office would unlikely ever have access to.

I mean c’mon the conflict of interests are right there in the open - Bloomberg Politics (owned by Mike Bloomberg) runs a story about how “Mike Bloomberg seeks to move past "stop and frisk"controversy.”


According to Idea Markets, “Media corporations have near-limitless power to enforce fiat narratives using tactics like these:

  • Limiting the scope of discussion (“Democrat vs. Republican”)

  • Astroturfing (paying people to imitate a grassroots movement)

  • Distributing airtime ($4B of free airtime to Donald Trump in 2016)

  • Sponsoring entertainment and media (CIA involvement in media)

  • Great firewalls (China)

  • Banning media outlets (Facebook and Twitter)

  • Interrupting members of US Congress to cover Justin Bieber (Video)

  • Scripting local news on a national scale (Video)

  • many more”

For a history of PR, watch:

The “Century of the Self” & “Merchant’s of Doubt” should be required viewing for anyone interested in how media is used in creating narratives that drive society. The former being the “story of the growth of the mass-consumer society,” and the latter “looking at the well established Public Relations tactic of saturating the media with shills who present themselves as independent scientific authorities on issues in order to cast doubt in the public mind.”

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The public media apparatus is systemically broken, and Idea Markets is a novel way to turn the epistemic crisis into a revolution. Coupling public narratives with public investments could lead us out of the barren wasteland of fiat narratives into the promise land of an actual “idea market.” A true one would do, the following, and more:

  • Create a more productive discourse by making mutual understanding a financial necessity

  • Undermine propaganda by moving money (and trust) from platforms that imitate insight to those that truly provide it

  • Solve fake news effortlessly by making credibility extremely expensive to fake.

“When seeking narratives, we naturally seek authority. When seeking investments, we naturally seek value. Therefore, the best way to choose public narratives is with investment.” - Idea Markets

There is promising research that shows Mike & Idea Markets are on the right track too. Individually we aren’t that good at judging news sources, but en masse we are almost the same as professional fact checkers.

I thank Mike for his time, and the expansive discussion we had. Check out the timestamps below to jump around in the talk.

Enjoy the conversation, and until next time - Ad Astra!


  • How Mike’s influences have changed over time (04:22)

  • What he does day to day other than Idea Markets (12:08)

  • His experience with cryptocurrencies (18:16)

  • Beginning of part two with an explanation of the Hegelian Dialectic (26:38)

  • What are fiat narratives, and examples of how media corporations create them (35:51)

  • The effectiveness of the “Tobacco Strategy” & Edward Bernays lasting influence on us all (46:46)

  • Beginning of part three with how we are in an epistemic crisis (50:56)

  • Our public media apparatus is inadequate in dealing with the problems of today (55:08)

  • What does Idea Markets do differently? (57:51)

  • How Idea Markets runs on the Ethereum blockchain (We talked to Vinay Gupta who helped launch Ethereum in a previous episode) (01:03:27)

  • Idea Markets have Skin in the Game principles (01:08:14)

  • The possible negative sides of an idea market (01:10:12)

  • Idea Markets browser extension launches March 1st, 2020! (01:13:28)


More on Mike Elias:

Idea Markets Website:

Idea Markets White Paper:

Idea Markets Twitter:

Mike’s Twitter:

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